Transdermal patches may be relatively new in the cannabis realm, but the technology has been around for decades. The concept is very similar to a nicotine or contraceptive patch, with a few innovative twists that allow the patch to effectively deliver CBD into the bloodstream.
So what exactly is a CBD patch?
A patch containing a measured dose of cannabidiol molecules is usually injected into an isolated solution, gel, or oil. The high concentration of CBD in the patch and the low concentration of CBD in the skin, combined with a carrier and penetration enhancer, help move cannabinoids from the patch into the body.
How are CBD patches made?
Not all CBD patches are the same, the difference lies in how they are made. You can find two types of CBD Patches on the market today: matrix patches and reservoir patches. It is important to know the difference between matrix and depot patches as one is more effective at delivering CBD than the other.
Matrix patches usually consist of five layers: a peel-off layer that protects CBD, a “matrix” layer infused with CBD, a release layer, an adhesive layer, and a protective backing layer. The adhesive layer holds the matrix layer to the skin and the CBD molecules travel from the patch to the skin’s capillaries and from there into the bloodstream. Reservoir patches differ in important ways. They still have a release layer, adhesive, and protective backing, but the key element is the CBD depot’s permeable release membrane. Manufacturers can fine-tune their membranes to control the rate of CBD delivery. This allows the patch to release CBD at a more steady and controlled rate than the tapered release of matrix patches.
How Do CBD Patches Work?
CBD patches deliver CBD directly to the skin cell cannabinoids. Because our cells are made of lipids, and cannabinoids are also lipids, CBD easily diffuses through cells and eventually makes its way into blood vessels. That is, it delivers cannabinoids through the skin and into the bloodstream, allowing CBD to reach the endocannabinoid system where it binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors and produces a variety of therapeutic effects.
However, transdermal delivery is still rather slow and inefficient. Our skin is very good at blocking pollutants, toxins, and other compounds, so a CBD patch should be able to bypass the skin’s natural protective layer. That’s why some CBD patches use “penetration enhancers” that give the CBD the extra push it needs to enter the bloodstream.
Permeation enhancers can take many forms, from chemical solutions to physical enhancers such as microneedles. However, there are also natural penetration enhancers that are used directly in cannabis products, such as terpenes and essential oils.
Benefits of CBD Patch
CBD patches have the advantage of being a very efficient cannabinoid delivery method. About 50% of what is applied to the skin enters the bloodstream without the need for penetration enhancers. When you inhale or ingest CBD, there is little guarantee that the molecules will eventually reach your bloodstream. The lungs absorb CBD (about 50% of what is inhaled) relatively well, but this varies from person to person and from puff to puff. When ingested, many CBDs are not absorbed in all, simply pass through the body, and are also broken down by the liver. Ultimately, only about 5% of swallowed CBD is linked to its target endocannabinoid system (ECS).
CBD patches overcome these limitations by allowing cannabinoids to be delivered directly into the bloodstream and ECS with minimal loss in the process. As a bonus, CBD directly activates skin cells (without having to travel through the blood), which can be very beneficial for people with skin conditions.
Beyond efficiency and potency, CBD patches offer one of the most discreet delivery options available. With the patch, you don’t have to carry around a capsule or bottle of tincture while you find the time and space to take your doses throughout the day. Instead, simply wear the patch under your clothes in the shower, at the gym, or anywhere.
CBD patches may seem complicated, but they are easy to use and discreet. And unlike inhalation or ingestion, where effects peak quickly and taper off, CBD patches provide a consistent dose, releasing cannabinoids into the body continuously over time. Additionally, manufacturers can formulate the patch in different doses and durations to suit different clinical and therapeutic needs.
That said, CBD patches may be more effective than other delivery methods. They last longer, are very efficient, and take a lot of the guesswork out of dosing.